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Andrew Thomson

Dr Andrew Thomson

Senior Lecturer in Conflict, Terrorism and Security

Room: 26.01.006; +44 (0)28 9097 2526

Andrew Thomson holds a PhD from the University of Kent. He is part of the Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict and a fellow at the Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast.  Externally, he is on the executive council of the Conflict Research Society Conflict Research Society (CRS) and runs the CRS Book of the Year Prize.


Andrew Thomson’s research interests include pro-government militias and civilian defence forces, dynamics of violence in civil war, counterinsurgency and "irregular" warfare, state violence and the Colombian peace process. These broad research interests are divided into three strands. First, he focuses on the role of militias and mercenaries in US foreign policy. His book, Outsourced Empire: How Militias, Mercenaries and Contractors Support US Statecraft, examined US support to various non-state armed forces in US interventions around the world. Secondly, Andrew examines the effects of mobilizing civilian self-defence forces on the dynamics of violence during civil conflict as well as on the long-term effects on peace processes. He is specifically interested in how mobilizing civilians in counterinsurgency settings, such the Sons of Iraq program, impact insurgent targets of violence. Finally, he also focuses on the current peace process in Colombia in the context of multiple armed groups. He recently completed a project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund on how FARC members’ interactions with other armed organizations influenced their disarmament process. He is currently developing a project examining ex-combatant dialogues towards reconciliation and conflict transformation.

Andrew is open to considering supervision of PhD projects around those three research focuses or more broadly on in the areas of conflict analysis, political violence and US Foreign Policy. He currently first and second supervises various projects, including supervision for Fabian Fandino Espejo on the connections between multi-national corporations (MNCs) and violence as well as these actors’ roles in post-conflict environments.



Dr. Andrew Thomson currently teaches on a variety of classes at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels:

PAI 2055 Security and Terrorism

PAI 3038 US Foreign Policy

PAI 7007 Global Terrorism

PAI 7028 Violence, Terrorism and Security

He also contributes regularly to a variety of other classes in areas such as conflict intervention, conflict transformation and peace processes, international security, international relations, American politics, among others and specialist classes such as at the Institute for Global Peace Security and Justice Summer School.



Outsourced Empire: How Militias, Mercenaries and Contractors Support US Statecraft. London: Pluto Press, June 2018.

Peer Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters

“The Credible Commitment Problem and Multiple Armed Groups: FARC Perceptions of Insecurity during Disarmament in the Colombian Peace Process” Conflict, Security and Development. Online First 27 July 2020.

 “US Support for “Civilian Defence” Paramilitaries in Iraq and Afghanistan” Forthcoming chapter in The Political Violence of Capital:  Paramilitary Formations in Global Perspective edited by Jasmin Hristov, Jeb Sprague-Silgado and Aaron Tauss London: Routledge, 2020.

 “The Ties that Bind: Ethnicity, Pro-Government Militia and the Dynamics of Violence in Civil War” in Journal of Conflict Resolution. 12 November 2019. with Govinda Clayton and Luke Abbs.

 “Ethnic Conflict and Militias” in The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity edited by Steven Ratuva.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2019.  10.1007/978-981-13-0242-8_41-1

 “A Precarious Peace? The Threat of Paramilitary Violence to the Peace Process in Colombia” Third World Quarterly, 39(11), 2142-2172, 2018. With David Maher.

 “Civilianizing Civil Conflict: Civilian Defense Militias and the Logic of Violence in Intra-State Conflict.” International Studies Quarterly February, 2016. With Govinda Clayton

 “Applying Marxism to Critical Terrorism Studies: Analysis through a Historical Materialist Lens”. In P. Dixit, & J. L. Stump (Eds.) Critical Methods in Terrorism Studies (pp. 33-46). New York: Routledge, 2015. With David Maher

 “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend... The Dynamics of Self-Defense Forces in Irregular War: The Case of the Sons of Iraq.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 37(11), 920-935. 2014. With Govinda Clayton

  “The Terror that Underpins the “Peace”: The Political Economy of Colombia's Paramilitary Demobilization Process.” Critical Studies on Terrorism 4(1): 95-113, 2011. With David Maher

 Book Reviews

 Book Review of The Para-State: An Ethnography of Colombia’s Death Squads, by Aldo Civico in Bulletin of Latin American Research. 2017.

 Book Review of State Crime on the Margins of Empire: Rio Tinto, the War on Bougainville and Resistance to Mining, by Kristian Lasslett. Critical Studies on Terrorism. 2015. 10.1080/17539153.2015.1081012

 Book Review of State Violence and Genocide in Latin America: The Cold War Years edited by Esparza, M., Huttenbach, H. R., and Feierstein, D.: State Crime 1( 2), Autumn 2012.: 275-278

 Book Review of Hristov, Jasmin. Blood and Capital: The Paramilitarization of Colombia. International Affairs 86(6) November 2010: 1473-1475.

 Other Papers and Publications

 Preface for Universidades Públicas Bajo S.O.S.pecha. Represión estatal a estudiantes, profesorado y sindicalistas Second Edition, Asociación Jorge Adolfo Freytter Romero. edited by Miguel Angel Beltran, Maria Ruiz Aranguren, Jorge Freytter Romero, September 2020

 “Venezuela failed raid: US has a history of using mercenaries to undermine other regimes” The Conversation. 18 May 2020.

  “The new US plan in Afghanistan may add a local militia. That might be a bad idea.” The Washington Post (Monkey Cage) 4 December, 2017. With Govinda Clayton.

  “The Real Test of the Colombian Peace Process in the Context of Multiple Warring Groups” QPOL, 6 December, 2016.  Available online at

 Exploring the Relationship between Higher Education and Development: A Review and Report. Guerrand-Hermés Foundation for Peace, 2008.